“At a price tag of Rs 6,500, Micromax’s debut Windows Phone smartphone presents stiff competition to the Nokia Lumia 520.”
India’s leading smartphone vendor, Micromax, has played a major role in democratising the Android smartphone segment. Today, you can get an Android device in price ranges varying from Rs 5,000 to Rs 70,000 (that’s the launch price of LG’s curved smartphone, the G Flex, in case you’re wondering). Not limiting itself to just one platform, Micromax is now expanding its offerings with another OS, giving consumers more choice. Yes, Microsoft’s Windows Phone has been almost exclusively used by Nokia for a while now, but not anymore. At MWC, and later at BUILD 2014, the Redmond giant announced new partners that would start selling WP-based devices. Though there are other Indian brands in the pipeline like Karbonn and XOLO, Micromax became the first homegrown company to announce its Windows Phone-toting smartphones when it showcased them at a star-studded event today.
The company debuted two devices in its Canvas Win series, tagged as the Win W092 and Win W121. We were at the launch event and got a hold of both handsets in our greedy paws. Here’s our hands-on experience of the cheaper of the two, the Micromax Canvas Win W092.
Looking at the smartphone from afar, you get the feeling that it’s encased in a cover for protection. It’s only when you hold the device that you realise it’s actually the rear cover itself. Much like Nokia’s Asha and X series, the rear panel encases the smartphone, surrounding even its edges. Because of the bulky cover, the smartphone is as thick as a brick. Surprisingly, the device is fairly lightweight and you can use it with a single hand comfortably. However, the plastic construction makes the device look very cheap and is also prone to smudges, due to its glossy finish. We were hoping for a better build quality, especially considering that its bigger sibling, the Canvas Win W121, has a premium feel to it thanks to its leatherette back and metal-finish edges.
Coming to the display, the smartphone features a 4-inch IPS screen with a resolution of 800 x 480 pixels. During our usage, the display looked vibrant for both text and images. Though the pixel density is on the lower side, we didn’t notice any pixelation on the Canvas Win W092, unless we looked at it very closely. The display is flanked by a front-facing shooter and a few sensors on the top, and a row of three capacitive backlit keys below. The three keys can be used for returning to the previous screen (also doubles up as multitasking key when long pressed), going home and performing a device / web search. The port and button placement on the sides is otherwise standard, with a power button on the right and volume keys on the left. Both the headphone socket and microUSB port are on the top edge, with the bottom panel devoid of anything.
It’s the specs front where the smartphone shows its real prowess. Micromax has based the smartphone on the Qualcomm Reference Design (QRD) for Windows Phone devices, ensuring that the device always offers smooth operation. Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 200 quad-core chipset clocked at 1.2GHz powers the show, accompanied by a gigabyte of RAM. Though we didn’t get a chance to run any games or heavy apps, we didn’t find the mobile slowing down while navigating, scrolling and running pre-installed apps. Of course, we would refrain our judgment till the time we review the device over a variety of situations for its real-world performance, but initial impressions are definitely promising.
In the photography department, the device comes with a 5-megapixel snapper at the back supplemented by an LED flash. Sadly, Micromax has gone with a fixed focus mechanism for the Win W092’s camera, which means users don’t have any control on the subject in focus. In well-lit conditions, the camera resulted in fine image quality, though we would give our final verdict when we are able to use the camera properly. You also get a VGA shooter at the front for ‘Skyping’ purposes, however we aren’t sure if it would be suitable for selfies.
The back cover is removable and exposes a user-replaceable 1,500mAh Li-ion battery, along with a pair of SIM card slots and a microSD card. The expansion slot comes in handy if the in-built 8GB of storage isn’t enough for your needs. Of the available internal storage, around 2.56GB is already occupied by the OS, leaving around 4.57GB for your personal files and installation of apps. After the recently-launched Lumia 630 (first impressions | FAQs), the Micromax Canvas Win W092 is next in line with support for dual-SIM slots, though 3G is compatible only in the primary one. Other connectivity options include Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi and GPS with A-GPS.
We’ve saved the best for last – the interface of the smartphone. The Canvas Win W092 runs the latest Windows Phone 8.1, which solves many pain-points of WP8. Some of the features worth mentioning are Action Center for getting access to all your notifications and toggling Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, etc., customisable lock screen and home screens, and a file manager app, among others. You also get the Sense suite of apps for greater control over data, battery and storage. The device also comes preloaded with Microsoft’s services such as Office 365, OneDrive, Bing Maps, Bing Heath and Fitness, and more. There’s also a swipe-to-type functionality with the new Word Flow keyboard. Micromax hasn’t touched the OS at all and its available to use in pristine condition. In the case of Android, this might have been a positive point since the stock version comes loaded with all the necessary features, however in the case of Windows Phone, where the app ecosystem is still playing catch up with the duopoly of Android and iOS, we think that the device could have been preloaded with a few basic apps.
Of course, the linchpin to Micromax’s offering is its pricing, which the company has chosen very strategically. The Canvas Win W092 can be yours for just Rs 6,500, bringing it squarely into the Nokia Lumia 520’s territory. Although the Lumia 520 was launched at higher price, over time, it has dropped to around Rs 7,000. Comparing the two, the Lumia 520 boasts of commendable and colourful encasing, plus Nokia’s useful apps such as Camera, HERE Maps, and MixRadio. But Micromax is playing the same cards as it has done on the Android side – offering fully-loaded specs like a quad-core chip, 1GB RAM, secondary camera and more at an enticing price-point. One key reason behind the affordable pricing is Microsoft’s waiving of the licensing costs for Windows Phone, which has attracted more manufacturers to WP’s fold. This will definitely bring turf wars to the Windows Phone segment, thanks to the cut-throat pricing offered by Indian brands. These are definitely exciting times for WP fans, and those who want a capable alternative to Android. Stay tuned for our full review of the device after it’s launched in the market in July.